October 9, 2015
Contact

For high-resolution photos, interviews, and more information please contact:

Burke Museum Public Relations
burkepr@uw.edu
206.543.9762

Republic of the Marshall Islands President & First Lady Loeak visit the Burke Museum

The Republic of the Marshall Islands President Christopher J. Loeak and First Lady Lieom Anono Loeak visited the Burke Museum, the Washington State Museum of Natural History and Culture, on Monday, October 5, 2015.

Burke PR

President and First Lady Loeak met University of Washington undergraduates of Pacific Islander heritage who are researching cultural objects and curating exhibits at the Burke. In addition, the President and First Lady contributed their knowledge to Marshallese cultural objects in the Burke’s collection. Their visit stems from President and Lady Loeak’s active role in preserving and strengthening Marshallese culture.

In addition to speaking with students about their work at the museum, President and First Lady Loeak examined the Burke’s two jaki-ed—woven mats traditionally worn as clothing in the Marshall Islands until the early 1900s. Although there are many expert weavers in the Marshall Islands, weavers stopped making these mats when the predominant clothing style evolved from the jaki-ed to western dress. First Lady Loeak recently sponsored a project in which female high school drop-outs learned to make jaki-ed from master weavers so the girls would gain cultural prestige and economic opportunity.

President and First Lady Loeak shared the terminology for different parts of the mats, and confirmed the types of plant materials used to make the jaki-ed. Their contributions are invaluable to the collective knowledge about the objects in the Burke’s collection, which are then recorded and shared on the museum’s website for others to access and learn from across the globe.

The visit also inspired a new research project between the Burke Museum and President Loeak’s staff. Christopher DeBrum, the President’s Chief of Staff, examined a photo of a Marshallese man from the 1940s that was found inside of a recently donated wallet. Written on the back of the photograph is the name “DeBrum.” Christopher DeBrum, who is likely related to this individual, will continue working with the Burke to learn more about the life of his relative in the months to come.

“This has been an excellent visit for us,” President Loeak said. “We were able to see some of the things that we cherish. We understand the significance of them being here. It is good to know these objects are being cared for, and appreciated."

President Loeak and Burke Museum staff ended the visit with a discussion of how the Burke can support and collaborate with the Alele Museum, the National Museum of the Marshall Islands, in the future.

“It was an incredible honor to have President and First Lady Loeak visit the Burke Museum,” Dr. Holly Barker, curator of Oceanic and Asian culture said. “We hope their visit, along with the incredible research done by Pacific Islander students, will inspire other Marshallese and Pacific Islanders in the Seattle area to learn about and pass along their traditions so they can remain resilient and strong in their new host communities, as they have been on their islands for thousands of years.”

For more information about the Republic of the Marshall Islands and President Loeak, please contact cdebrum2@gmail.com.

For high resolution images or for more information about how the Burke’s collections are used by community members and students, contact burkepr@uw.edu.

Two men look at a paddle in the museum's collections

President Loeak talks to Psalm Wooching about a Marshallese paddle from the Burke’s collection.
Photo: Burke Museum

Contact

For high-resolution photos, interviews, and more information please contact:

Burke Museum Public Relations
burkepr@uw.edu
206.543.9762

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